FEBRUARY 16, 1959
NEW YORK—Not having time last week to show me the whole of the Menninger setup in the Topeka area, Dr. Karl Menninger took me after lunch to the new Veterans Hospital where there were gathered psychiatrists from all the different institutions—those who had come to study, those who were on the regular staff. Incidentally, he mentioned that probably there were more psychologists and psychiatrists gathered together in that one auditorium than I had seen in any one place before.
Instead of asking me for a speech, Dr. Menninger said the plan was that he and I would exchange points of view on a variety of subjects. He and his colleagues were the scientists—the people are presented with the problem that exists, namely, mental illness from babyhood through to old age; and they were trying to find the answers and the best answers to every problem put before them. As we talked, I realized that I was of course interested in this problem of treatment, but that fundamentally I was more interested in the problem of prevention. Why was it we had to have mental illness? If we could discover it in children and learnt the proper treatment, why couldn't we also study the reasons which brought it about and try to prevent the causes?
I had to confess that at first I had been impatient with the ease with which many people turned to psychiatry to solve personal problems which I felt were problems that self-discipline required one to settle for oneself. But I had come to realize that psychiatry could be of infinite help to people. It could bring about better results and perhaps prevent long struggles which an individual otherwise might have to go through in order to gain self-mastery without any understanding help. But I still believed that it was important for the individual to struggle for himself and to feel the sense of achievement in his own self-reliance and self-control. If this is not one of the results of psychiatric treatment, I am always nervous about the final outcome.
It finally developed that Dr. Karl Menninger felt that research must be carried on in many more fields before the psychiatrist was ready to make recommendations. He mentioned how small a sum of money we have expended on research in this field in comparison with what we were willing to spend in some other rather unimportant activities. He said they were spending $100,000 on research, with the veterans and state hospitals all being used as laboratories and putting such resources as they could lay their hands upon into research; but much more could be done and should be done everywhere in this country. I wish that the kind of cooperation between all institutions and the Menninger Foundation which is carried on in this state could be a pattern in every other state. I think it would advance our knowledge in the field of mental health very rapidly.